It came amidst little fanfare this year, Thanksgiving Day did. Last year it involved lots of phone calls and whispered prayers and prognoses given and accepted. It involved her being admitted, intubated, worked on, saved, and then resting while we absorbed what the doctors were saying. And at some point on that day, it sunk in for each of us that this would probably be her last Thanksgiving. And what a crummy one it was, being spent in Intensive Care and poked a prodded and not even a bite of yam casserole to sweeten the deal.
And how different this year. We were subdued as we gathered, her family that misses her so. Sort of quiet as we put the dishes on the table, noting as we went that there wasn’t any cranberry fluff this year, no mashed potatoes, no turkey napkins picked up at the Newaygo Pamida. There was just us, her three children and their spouses, her husband, her nine grands and a Keloid scar named Steve. And we hurt but it was ok. Because she won. She got to spend it with Jesus and that feels so good it aches. Knowing that she was with her savior was the thing I was absolutely the most thankful for this year.
And after a couple bowling games in which one sister-in-law was uncharacteristically bad and one uncharacteristically good and in which we exposed all our children to athletes foot for the sake of being together and having fun, we drove home with full tummies and full hearts. See, this family is going to be ok. We’re going to be ok. Even without her. Even on the holidays. Because Thanksgiving this year was about remembering who she was with and how we’ll be there too someday. And it was about having fun and moving forward and still being together and happy. And it was about wearing shoes a billion people have already worn and eating turkey and looking in the rear view mirror at four exhausted smiling kids. And being so thankful I could have burst.
So this is me being real. Thankful for a long weekend spent in front of a roaring fire and wondering how in the heck I could have forgotten the potatoes.
I’ve been counting thanks these months. Chicken scratches in red journal lined up like soldiers marching into battle against ingratitude. Because I fall there so often, that ungrateful place where I spend hours petitioning for things I need or want and not praising for what I’ve already been given. Which is everything. I’ve been given everything. And it’s been a rough patch lately, you know that, but it’s easier sometimes to see God in the rough patches. The danger is in the forgetting when the road smooths out. And I’ve been doing that too, so I’m making sure to check in with this woman each day to be reminded that eucharisteo is the breath I need to breathe every day through words and in action so that this God who has gifted me with excessive blessings can get just a fraction of the thanks he’s due. And I challenge you to do the same this weekend. This long beautiful weekend which will see us gathered around tables groaning under the weight of excessive food and clothed in warmth and security while the rest of the world wants for crumbs. This weekend which will give birth to a season of celebrating God in flesh, gifted to us. Living language barrier breaker. That baby is enough to keep me on my knees for the next umpteen days.
This is me being real. Thankful. Full.
There are reasons we can’t compete in this numbers driven school district we live in. Many reasons. And most of them end with, “and I just don’t care that much.” Which allows me to both save face and take no personal responsibility at the same time. I’ve been met with blank stares more times than I’m comfortable recounting when I’ve stopped listening to parents talk about their kid getting into the best colleges and how important the MEAP is and have spoken my truth which is that scores just aren’t that important to me and, frankly, the stuff they’re learning shouldn’t take 8 hours a day nine months of the year to master. And that they won’t use most of it in real life and some of it won’t even apply anymore by the time they are adults. Will be completely obsolete. For instance, it is now considered standard practice to only use one space at the end of a sentence. I just learned this yesterday, and since I had to learn to use two spaces and I’m determined that I use that knowledge in real life, I’ve written this entire post using the old two space method.
It struck me while holding a feverish baby on my lap the other morning and watching Blue’s Clues that Joe’s parents likely had lofty goals for their son too. Dreamed of college and Honor’s Societies and career success for him. Now he’s entertaining my toddler with a song about pee and poop. And it works the other way too. Just look at Justin Bieber. All I’m saying is that we spend exhaustive amounts of time worrying if our kids are succeeding in school, if they’re staying current and competitive. And the fact that my kid was the only one who thought to include nipples on his construction paper and faux fur Native American doesn’t mean he’s bound for fame and fortune. It only proves that he knows what he looks like without his shirt on.
So when I say that the thing that will matter the most to me when my kids graduate from high school is that they love Jesus more than they love themselves and that they’ve learned lessons in kindness and serving others, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the academic stuff too. I do. A little. It’s only that I care about their hearts more.
And I’m so thankful for the amazing staff of people who are spending their days teaching them to only use one space after a sentence and how to borrow from a zero, but I’m more thankful when I get glimpses of the really good stuff that is going on in their classrooms. Like Grant learning how to be a bucket filler and not a bucket dipper. And Peter being praised for showing concern for a hurt classmate. And Tessa sharing love with her teacher on a rough day, just when she needed it most. That is what my kids are doing in school, I hope: learning how to be followers of Jesus in a hurt and broken world. And if they pick up some geometry and plant classification along the way, well, that won’t hurt anything either.
This is me being real. And wishing I had that Indian to show you. It’s awesome.
This is what 32 quarts of applesauce look like:
Of course, first you start with this:
And you think you’ll be there forever washing and quartering and baking down and filling. But you won’t. Especially if you call your mom to ask a question and she hears the naked desperation in your voice and comes over armed with an extra burner and her yoga pants, a sure sign she’s ready to rock. And you’ll think warm thoughts of the friend (you know who you are) who loaned you the most amazing invention since salvation: the Victorio Food Strainer and who also told you to just freeze your sauce and avoid the hassle of canning. You’ll think of her especially when you singe all the hair off your right arm and burn your fingers for the thousandth time trying to get a lid out of the boiling water bath. You’ll remember how you told her you were hoping to channel your inner Marilla Cuthbert. How you were looking forward to rows and rows of jars filled with homemade goodness in your pantry. And you’ll almost call her to tell her you are the stupidest woman on earth for not freezing and would she consider allowing you to marry her food mill, but then it’ll be 9:22 at night and your kids will be in their beds and the kitchen will be gleaming and there will be thirty two jars of goodness lined up on your counter and you’ll know it was all totally worth it.
You’ll also feel a soft kinship to your ancestors who did this with every crop and for days at at time, storing up food for the winter. Unless your ancestors were very wealthy in which case they probably had their staff do it while they were playing wickets out on the lawn. Then you’ll wish you had staff so you could leave them to it and go play wickets on the lawn. But you’ll remember that you don’t know how and so you’ll settle for an afternoon spent putting up apples in a warm kitchen and a helping nanny-burd and a no-napping toddler and thank you for it.
This is me being real. Sauced.
So I’m thinking about the food mill I found when I was cleaning out the liquor cabinet (you can read about it here) and wondering if any of you have ever made applesauce with one? Because I have spent untold hours lately peeling macs until my hands were gnarled so that I could boil them down into applesauce. And then, I’m only a little ashamed to tell you, have sat down and eaten my weight of the warm goodness. I’m addicted. And the season is nearly over and I’d love to can at least 287 jars, but only if I don’t have to peel all the apples first. And core them. And cut them into little chunks. So, tell me…have you ever just thrown chunks of apple with the peels and seeds and core into the pot and then put them through the food mill? And does it leave in the toenails (seed pockets)? And is it true that it even makes the sauce a sweet pink color? If anyone can corroborate these rumors, please do so. Because this weather and my stomach are crying out for more.
This is me being real. Hungry. Ready to turn this kitchen into a sauce factory if anyone can just tell me how.
We did the smart thing and pulled our kids out of school to have fun with them in Chicago. I don’t care what you say, this will always be the smart thing. Because two and a half days of being together and exploring museums and building stuff and walking many blocks to chase the lure of dolls and Legos and swimming in pools and sleeping three to a bed, that’s the good stuff. So is stocking up on organic raisins and peanut butter at Trader Joes (did you know the price of pb is expected to rise %40 this year?) and taking a hot cocoa break in the middle of the day, cold fingers wrapped around hot mug, mustache blooming on small lips. Good stuff. And making waffles at the free breakfast buffet and navigating the city in a Suburban by myself to the accompaniment of, “The man said we would come to a dead ending and we should turn left at the dead ending.” And dinner at Rainforest Cafe where you are served very expensive crappy food but it’s totally worth doing once because your kids eat silently with saucer like eyes, watching the animatronic animals who are probably dropping dust mites onto your burger. And watching Kit get her ears pierced and Lucy pick out a baby carrier for Bitty and wear it everywhere we went, only on her back like a papoose. And the boys, on a short break from the furor of life in the big city, busily putting new Lego sets together. And over it all, there was Dan working hard while we played and me trying not to text him too many pictures of the fun we were having at the Aquarium and the museums; me trying to walk the fine line between including him in our fun and making him feel left out. And me trying also not to feel totally freaked out when he left in the morning and I’d look at my watch and think, “It’s just me and four kids and a Keloid scar named Steve for the next thirteen hours. In Chicago.” And for some reason, I think it’s because Lucy was playing with my phone on the way home, I don’t have pictures of any of this. Only memories. And they are sweet.
This is me being real. Thankful for some away time with my family. Wishing we could have stayed longer. Thankful we didn’t miss this day with it’s sunshine and leaves blowing across the deck and against my windows while I read the Press.
this is my sister.
she’s the one in pink.
her name is molly, but if you’re in her family you can call her muff or moller waller dollar.
but only if you’re in her family.
she looks just like me only cuter. and older. but mostly just cuter.
she wears funky glasses, home schools her four boys and says “ya know what i’m sayin’?” a lot.
she also has a business.
it’s called bloom naturals.
she mixes up the most amazing lotions in her vitamix.
they are all made with pure, natural, ingredients.
you could eat them.
they don’t taste very good.
but they feel heavenly on your skin.
go check them out.
tell her i sent you. that’ll win me huge points and get you a 0% discount on your first order.
and mention that i’m her biggest fan. i’m not sure i tell her that enough.
this is me being real. and packing my lotion for a weekend in the windy city where chapped cheeks will have nothing on this creamy soothing wonderfulness in a jar. and hoping i don’t use so much that my garrett’s popcorn sticks to my cheeks. that would not look cool.